JFS Northpoint Health Center open to serve
Photos: Kim Leeson Photography
“As always, JFS provides for emerging needs of our community and right now that’s access to excellent medical care,” said Cathy Barker, JFS’ president and CEO, addressing the audience at the JFS Northpoint Health Center’s Feb. 29, 2024, ribbon cutting.

By Deb Silverthorn

Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas’ Open Door to All In Need mission now extends through medical services provided at the JFS Northpoint Health Center. Opening officially to provide patient support on Monday, March 4, the Center hosted its ribbon cutting and opened the doors to its 5,500-square-foot space at 12606 Greenville Ave. on Thursday, Feb. 29 — leap day, with much more than just a leap of faith.

“As always, JFS provides for emerging needs of our community and right now that’s access to excellent medical care,” said Cathy Barker, JFS’ president and CEO. “This is the first of two approved JFS clinics and the beginning for, hopefully, many more, that will allow us to achieve whole-person care.”

JFS’ Northpoint Medical Center is the first Federally Qualified Health Center opened under a member of the Network of Jewish Human Services Agencies, an umbrella organization of more than 140 nonprofits.

Barker credited Les and DJ Weisbrod for investing in the agency’s research toward making the Center a reality; Les is a former JFS board chair. Barker said, “Less than 5% of those who need access to health care have a medical home. We look forward to leading the way as a model for other communities.”

JFS’ COO Deizel Sarte, a year after joining the agency, asked Barker “what if, and have you considered” regarding health care. Barker cited Sarte’s encouragement and more than 18 years of community health care center experience for pushing possibility into reality.

“JFS-served families are disproportionately impacted by a lack of access to health care,” said Sarte, who began her career as a registered nurse. “Many go without medical attention which can worsen many treatable conditions. This center is the answer to many issues and many prayers.

“We have fundraised and have enough support to remain operational for nearly two-and-a-half years. Once we are open for a year, we will qualify for federal grants,” added Sarte. Attorneys Lisa Atlas Genecov and Lisa Prather; JFS’ Federally Qualified Health Center Task Force chaired by Weezie Margolies; and its physician board led by Dr. Michael Landgarten were key to seeing the project come to fruition.

As an FQHC, the Center provides comprehensive primary and preventive care to people of all ages, regardless of their ability to pay — with or without health insurance coverage.

The Center is located five miles east of JFS’ home base. It is expected that current JFS clients might benefit from the Center’s offerings and that clients who originate at the Center might likely benefit from JFS’ more than 150 wraparound services.

Dr. Heather Esquivel, JFS’ chief medical officer, directs the Northpoint Health Center. Initial staffing includes two behavioral clinicians, a pediatric nurse practitioner, a medical assistant, a receptionist and a revenue cycle director. The Center expects to add providers and team members over the next two years.

“I have often wished I could connect my medical patients to services like those that JFS provides because when a patient comes in for medical treatment there can be other factors affecting their health,” said Esquivel, known to patients and staff as “Dr. E.” “Being able to also address our patients’ emotional, nutritional and financial support needs makes us unique. It allows us to do and give the very best to treat the whole of the person coming in to us.”

Esquivel, who is bilingual, attended the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University as a National Health Corps Service Scholarship awardee, through which she had her first experience working with an FQHC while still in medical school. It was then she decided her future would be as a primary care clinician for underserved community residents.

Her first position out of medical school was in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where in year three she was named first interim, then full-time chief medical officer.

“To serve my community, to those who most need what I can give, is all I want,” said Esquivel. “I have always been mission- and service-driven.”

Esquivel and her partner, Dr. Brian Wiley, moved to Dallas in 2016; for five years she was CMO at Mission East Dallas Family Health Clinic, also an FQHC. At JFS’ Northpoint Health Center, Esquivel and her staff are able to serve any client, under any circumstance.

At the ribbon cutting, JFS staff, Jewish and Greater Dallas community leaders heard from Barker and Esquivel as well as Eric Goldberg, Dr. Michael Landgarten and Deizel Sarte.

“This opening is a huge accomplishment for JFS and a good resource for the Greater Dallas community. I thank the staff who have worked tirelessly to add medical services to our offerings because their will to help ensure our clients have access to true wraparound care is inspiring,” said Goldberg, JFS’ board chair. “I am grateful to the community members who rallied behind this idea, providing meaningful support with time, talent and treasure and to our board and my predecessor, Julie Liberman, who have all been on this journey.

“It takes a social village to take an idea of this magnitude from conception to reality,” he added. “Its reality is in no small part due to Cathy Barker’s leadership and the vision and commitment to this agency she has that moves JFS forward in ways many of us never could have dreamt.”

Landgarten said the JFS Dallas Physicians Network, including Drs. Yan Lemeshev, Luke Peris, Rebecca Prengler and Richard Wasserman, was instrumental. They assisted him in creating policies and procedures, providing oversight for medical care and hiring Esquivel.

“As physicians, we know the importance of access to health care,” said Landgarten, who is a nephrologist. “Our patients will have premier and consistent care leading to better health outcomes for themselves and their families.”

At the ribbon cutting ceremony, Rabbi Howard Wolk, JFS’ community chaplain, fulfilled the mitzvah of hanging the first mezuzah, bringing wholeness and heritage to the space. That heritage was not lost on Esquivel.

Esquivel said she was inspired by her own family physician from her youth, the late Dr. Lloyd Hershman, who was Jewish. “He showed me I could use my mind intellectually, but it was building relationships with patients, with their children and their parents, generations of patients that made for real success,” said Esquivel. “He encouraged my dreams and I go to bed each night knowing I have helped people.”

Having a heart of service is a key ingredient to the recipe of success for the Center and is both challenging and rewarding, Esquivel explained.

“Adding medical care to the longstanding tradition of support that JFS delivers in spades is a gift to this community. Every person deserves excellent medical care and this is the cherry on the sundae that is JFS,” Esquivel said.

For more information about the JFS Northpoint Medical Center, visit jfsdallas.org/healthcenter.

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